Antwerp, Belgium: It was a rough evening for the Indians, who were simply outclassed by the hosts Belgium on the field and their fans with their full-throated and non-vocal support gave them extra vigour and they virtually floated on them to register a 4-0 win and earn a passage into the title match of the FIntro Hockey World League final, where they meet winners of Australia and Great Britain.
They scored twice in first eight minutes and then added one more in each of the third and fourth quarters, as Florent Van Aubel completed a fine at-trick. Their superb and fluent movement on the attack and a solid defence coupled with some superb drag-flicks and collection of rebounds meant India were just simply outplayed.
With the stands giving a fuller look than it has at any time this past fortnight, Belgium got off to an electric start.
Less than 80 seconds into the game in the first major attack, Felix Denayer’s hit was stopped by Jasjit, but he couldn’t control. Denayer won back the ball and put Florent van Aubel in possession and he swept it in with his reverse flick to Sreejesh’s right.
The Belgians kept swarming in and in the eighth minute, Amaury Keusters was obstructed resulting in a penalty corner. The first shot stopped well by Sreejesh, but Tanguy Cosyns scored off the rebound to make it 2-0.
Meanwhile, skipper Sardar Singh was by now exhorting his colleagues to stay calm. Also coach Paul Van Ass had some stern words for the team and that saw the second half began on a better note for India with more attacks and a tighter defence.
Akashdeep receiving a ball from Sardar, pushed it to Ramandeep, but he lost possession. Then Satbir grabbed a mis-pass on the edge of the Belgian circle and made it a one-on-one with he goalkeeper, but Vanasch took on his body, close to the chest, and saved the danger. That was the best chance India had.
A near solo run by Sardar from almost inside his own circle to just outside Belgian 25-yard line sparked hope, but he was fouled and the chance was lost.
With just under five minutes left in third session, Belgium scored their third goal as Van Aubel slotted home the ball that came of the post with the first flick.
In the final quarter Van Aubel completed a hat-rick after Sreejesh had made a double save of a penalty corner.
By now the Indians probably just wanted the match and ordeal to get over. But with 21 seconds left, India got a penalty, their third, and Jasjit Singh’s drag flick hit a defender above the knee and there was no more penalty corners.